Yes, it’s the end of the week. And that means its time for me to share the best things that came across my radar, the things that made me laugh, cry or cringe. Let’s get started.

In My Movie Queue

Yes Birdman won Best Picture, but we both know that most of you are not going to see it. It looks like some kind of artsy-fartsy movie. No giant robots in sight.

Of the few movies Cheri and I saw in the theater last year, I cannot believe we picked the Best Picture. And we loved it. But we haven’t been too vocal about that because we know that not everyone will. Yes, it’s not a typical movie, but please refrain from leaving the theater saying, “Well…it was interesting.” That’s a lame way to say, “I’m too dumb for this movie.” You aren’t too dumb. Just go see it. It’s being re-released this weekend to theaters. Bonus points for reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver before you go. Bonus bonus points if the title reminds you of the time Bill Hader was on Portlandia.

In My Blog Reader

Fifty Shades of Grey continues to be a topic of ongoing discussion, but I believe Jamie the Very Worst Missionary had the best commentary, and lo and behold she actually read the book and watched the movie. Her best analysis: there is abuse in Fifty Shades, but it doesn’t happen in the bedroom.

Kathy Escobar addresses what I can only imagine is a rampant problem in the church, narcissismIt’s not a pretty picture. Why do the guys at the front of our churches end up there? It may not always be a calling, but a personality.

Lore Ferguson writes beautifully about the difference between making a “mini-me” verses making a disciple.

Lindsey Nobles surrounds herself with “accomplished” women, but says what the rest of us are thinking. We are torn between being inspired by such people, and feeling like we do not measure up. We all have voices. We all have gifts. We just have to own what those are.

Finally, Kristen from We Are That Family talks about body image and daughters and Cindy Crawford and even though I don’t have a daughter, it’s a profoundly important topic to understand as men and women because the body images that women are given also affect boys and men.

That’s it for me this week. See you next time!

What is your personal currency?

In the "influence economy" of the modern church, "1%" leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

In the “influence economy” of the modern church, “1%” leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

You know, the thing that you strive to collect, to store up, to hoard. That stuff that drives you to do one more thing before you go to bed. The thing that gets you up an hour earlier in the morning. The thing that keeps you up at night, worrying that you don’t have enough.

The American church has done a pretty good job of convincing us that money is not our personal currency. (I suppose it’s easy to tell ourselves that money is not that important to us when we have quite a lot of it, relatively speaking.)

No it’s not money that we are grasping for. Go to churches, go to conferences, go to seminars, read the books. What is the core of what church leaders are peddling?

Influence.

The church has figured out how to make the pursuit of influence sound noble, righteous, even necessary. Now, all of the books are written and all of the conferences are led by guys who obviously have a lot of it. A lot of people listen to the guys at the top. And so they tell us how we too can have it all.

When we talk about our church’s “relevance,” try switching in the word “influence.” There will be almost no difference.

When a conference speaker is discussing “impact,” just sketch the word “influence” in your notes.

When a pastor is talking about “evangelism,” just imagine the word “influence.”

It is influence that, well, influences most of our pursuits. And I have to admit that for most of my adult life, I have been no different. I have hungered and thirsted after it. I have wanted people to give me attention, to do what I say, to respect my opinions.

What I’ve found is that there are a lot of problems with influence being our personal currency.

Continue Reading…

Last night, if you watched the Oscars, a ritual occurred. It’s a ritual that has been with humanity since our very beginning.

It was not about the little statues or the speeches.

What the Oscars are all about is people seeking after permanence.

People crave immortality. We want some piece of our lives to be permanent. Somehow, Birdman will always be on the Best Picture list, and I can’t believe, of the very few movies I saw in theaters last year, I picked the future best picture to see.

But how many people in fifty years are really going to know what Birdman is? Look back at the list of winners. There are a few memorable films, the films that are studied in classes. But there are some real goofs too. A lot of films have not stood the test of time. How many people in fifty years are going to know what Birdman is?

That’s not a knock on the film. That’s just the way things are. Because last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we had the opportunity to be reminded that we are dust. And all of our work will return to dust.

We have a real problem with creating an illusion of permanence. I tune out as soon as someone uses words like forever. We think that we build something or we put a plaque on something and it will “always” be there. But we tear down things that are just fifty years old to make space for our “permanent” things. We are too in love with “new” to be concerned with “permanent.”

Take the weather in the Northeast. They are saying Boston has had record-breaking snow, which is significant. “The most snow ever,” they say. Well what does that mean? It means they are getting the most snow recorded in the last century and a quarter, more or less. One-hundred and twenty-five years, out of six billion years.

Our reach into history just is not very long. And our reach into the future is not much better. Even the great people, the people who got into our history books, how much do we really know about them?

dust

I have decided that striving for permanence is a losing proposition, one that destines me for frustration and anxiety in this life that I have. Just because we write books or paint pictures or build great things, let us not delude ourselves. All our work will return to dust. All we are called to do is help the people who exist here and now. 

And that is enough.

Maybe you are a parent.

Maybe you know some people who are parents.

Maybe you want to be a parent. That was where Cheri and I were for years.

You know what? We all think a lot of things about parenting. And our culture sends us many messages about parenting. And most of thoseoutsidebt1 messages don’t really help parents be parents. Most of those cultural messages suck the fun out of parenting and wrack us with frustration and anxiety. Our culture makes it nearly impossible to be a parent and feel good about how we parent our kids.

Last Sunday, I spoke at Beggars Table Church in Kansas City about this very issue. The thing I learned is that I didn’t have to be a dad to fall into the same trap that parents are led into. All I had to do was try to become a dad. You can find the full audio here.

If you have time because you are on a snow day, or maybe you’re just slacking at work, give it a listen. Maybe you’ll think a little bit different about yourself and your kids by the end.

IVF_2355941b

No, we do not have equal access to medicine in our country.

What do we mean when we say “reproductive freedom?”

I think most of us are familiar with the usual conversation. The discussion usually about women’s rights and access to medicine and some old guys in Congress trying to take those rights away from her. And that part of the conversation is all well and good, and it’s not the thing I want to talk about.

I just want us to be able to finally admit something?

We aren’t really talking about reproductive freedom. That’s a misnomer. We are talking about something entirely different. It’s not about equality or free access or anything like that.

Because when it comes to reproductive medicine, there is still much about it that is not free, equal and accessible.

Continue Reading…

I’ve been to plenty of funerals. I’ve even conducted a couple.1

We all eventually wind up at a funeral. Maybe it’s for a long-lived relative. Sometimes it’s a tragically unforeseen death.

We think that a funeral is a mandatory event on the way to the hereafter, if not for the deceased, then at least for the ones they leave behind.

But it turns out that, in reality, most of the people who have ever been born, never had a funeral. They were never mourned. Their pictures and obituaries were never in the paper.

Did you know that?

Because I did not, not until my wife and I started trying to get pregnant.

I’m guest writing at Confessions of a Funeral Director. Go read the whole post at Caleb Wilde’s site.